Najib and Obama in historic bilateral meeting

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and US President Barack Obama met in a historic bilateral meeting here, paving the way for a new era in Malaysian-American ties.

The two leaders looked relaxed as they settled down to their first ever bilateral meeting at 11.30am yesterday (Malaysian time 11.30pm) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre where Obama is hosting the inaugural two-day Nuclear Security Summit.

Najib and Obama talked for 40 minutes, longer than their scheduled half-hour meeting, flanked by Acting Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who is Information Communi-cation and Culture Minister, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

They spoke about trade between their countries, security in the Asian region and Malaysia’s role in the Islamic world.

Also in the Prime Minister’s delegation for the meeting were Foreign Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa and Malaysian ambassador to the United States Datuk Seri Jamaludin Jarjis.

Najib is among more than 40 world leaders attending the summit but only one of two Asian leaders granted a face-to-face meeting with Obama. The other leader is Chinese President Hu Jintao.

It was a hectic day for the prime minister who began his day with an early morning meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinburg and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman who paid a courtesy call on him.

The Prime Minister then headed to the convention centre for his meeting with Obama and later was hosted to lunch by US vice-president Joe Biden at the Naval Observatory.

He is slated to hold a bilateral meeting with his New Zealand counterpart John Key at the convention centre in the afternoon before attending a welcoming reception by Obama for all invited heads of government.

In the evening, Najib will attend a Heads of Delegation working dinner chaired by Obama where the discussion topic is “Threat of Nuclear Terrorism”.

At the summit, Najib is expected to stress on Malaysia’s stance that any nuclear programme should be used only for development and peace.

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